Vanitho Ivan Kerawiya, a Ugandan national who until recently was working as a teacher at the Simya private college in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish province of Diyarbakır, has been detained over alleged links to the Gülen movement.
Kerawiya became known in Turkey when the pro-government A Haber TV broadcast an interview with him earlier this week. “Hailing from Uganda, Ivan came to Turkey four years ago, and he has never turned back,” the reporter said before describing him as a Diyarbakır lover during the interview.
“The students love their teacher as well,” the reporter added, passing the mic to some of Ivan’s pupils. “I really love him. He teaches us not only English but also drawing, music, dance and everything. He is not like a normal tutor,” one student said.
The reporter went on to hail Kerawiya for “his colorful personality, ability to speak 11 languages and commitment to spending quality time with students.”
The state-run Anadolu agency joined A Haber to do an interview with him as well as with some other students.
When Kerawiya’s story went viral, however, pro-government social media accounts claimed that the teacher was affiliated with the Gülen movement, starting a growing reaction against him.
“When I saw the news, I thought he could be a Gülenist and started investigating him. [It turns out that] he had participated in the Turkish Language Olympics [organized by Gülen schools abroad] and studied at their schools. He has not blocked Gülenist social media accounts and he still follows them. He follows all Gülenists in Uganda,” political strategist Abdullah Çiftçi wrote on Twitter.
The pro-government Ihlas news agency reportedly called the school’s management to learn that Kerawiya was originally recruited as a public relations expert who has had good relations with the students and their parents and that he was mistakenly portrayed as a teacher.
Kerawiya’s information was later removed from the schools’ website and the school said in a statement that his contract had been terminated over Gülen links.
On Thursday Çiftçi wrote that the Diyarbakır police informed Kerawiya that he was being detained on accusations of membership in a terrorist organization.
Both Anadolu and A Haber removed the interviews from their websites.
The Turkish government accuses the Gülen movement of masterminding a July 15, 2016 coup attempt and considers it a terror group. The movement denies the accusations.
Some 150,000 people have been detained over Gülen links, of whom 60,000 were jailed pending trial, since the summer of 2016. (Turkey Purge)